Published Nov. 9, 2023
BY DAISYRE PAZ
For most incoming freshmen, the transition into high school brings a turmoil of emotions as they enter a whole new world from the awkward in-between stage of middle school. Health teacher Leigh Cambra is one of the lovely faces on campus that will be there to support the freshman and ease them into the bustling environment of Carmel High School.
Cambra does a lot more for the school and the entire district than most people realize. She’s not only the health teacher, she is also the staff adviser for the largest club on campus, This Club Saves Lives; coordinator for the Link Crew program; and a leader for several initiatives throughout the district from Big Sur to Cachagua.
“She is always on top of everything,” says junior Tasneem Khalil who has been a member of This Club Saves Lives since her freshman year. “[She keeps] everything organized and makes sure to communicate with the club members regularly.”
The project-driven teacher is not a stranger to the Big Sur community. After the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was damaged leading to the long-term closure of Highway 1 in 2017, CMS and CHS students were forced to take on a long trek every morning–literally down the side of a mountain– in order to get to school. Cambra jumped right into action to do anything she could for the Carmel Unified School District students and the Big Sur community affected by the event.
The hard-working community member asked a member of TCSL who was a Big Sur resident to gather a list of supplies or food anyone needed, and Cambra immediately began to raise money with the help of then board member Tess Arthur.
They were able to raise about $10,000 for the cause.
“We brought backpacks and shoved everything into [them] and carried it up the side of that hill.”
But her activity outside the boundaries of Carmel High doesn’t end there as Cambra has also taken on the responsibility to help oversee the summer school programs for the district’s elementary schools, which has kept her busy during the time off from teaching.
“I’m a person who is very purpose-driven, so if I don’t have a purpose I get really sad, and I have to stay busy,” says Cambra. “I am always looking for that next thing to do.”
The Palo Alto native went on to study at California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo where she was a part of the last graduating class of the Home Economics major before it was discontinued. In addition to that, she also attained a master’s degree in Sports Management from the University of San Francisco.
“I always thought that was going to be the direction I was going to go in, something with sports,” says Cambra, who also happens to be a huge San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors fan. “But my dad ended up getting sick with cancer and things changed.”
Cambra’s life took a turn following her father’s passing as she began to help out at the family business and later took a job at Palo Alto High School as the cheerleading coach prior to her employment at Carmel High School.
The CHS community feels lucky to have Cambra as a part of the school faculty as she goes into her eighteenth year teaching at the campus. She has shown dedication to her students and the school alike and is a gift to the close-knit campus.
“[Ms. Cambra] is someone who cares for our community,” says senior and longtime TCSL member Sophia Alexakos, “and [who] strives to make it a better place.”